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Tuesday 12 October 2010

Beauty and the Beast

Hi folks

I've managed to tear myself away from the enthralling prospect of tonight's England encpunter to take the time to post out the following piece. It's been amusing the past couple of weeks, listening to all those deluded Gooners, who've been trying to convince everyone quite how delighted they are that they don't have to pay to watch an Arsenal side that plays like Chelsea.

As someone who grew up watching "boring, boring Arsenal" as opposed to Arsène Wenger's entertaining all-stars, I have to tell you that I'd give my right arm to be watching players of the calibre of Drogba, Essien, Terry, Cech etc perform in a red & white shirt every week and was only too happy to pay to watch Anelka and Cole strut their stuff at THOF.

Besides which, the Blues football is positively bewitching by comparison to the sort of dour displays we endured during George Graham's latter years. Let's not kid ourselves, the current league leaders have proved on many an occasion that they are perfectly capable of turning on the style and perhaps one of the biggest differences between the two teams at present, is that while Arsène is intent on sticking rigidly to his principles of playing the way he wants his Arsenal side to play, with seemingly little or no regard to tactical adaptions to target to the strengths and weaknesses of specific opponents, Ancelotti's side is more pragmatic, with their first priority being how can we ensure that the opposition can't score.

More than many of those Gooners who didn't endure the good old, bad old days, I fully appreciate how privileged we've been over the last few years to enjoy such scinitilating entertainment. Nevertheless, no matter how enjoyable it is, I can't help but believe that success will continue to evade us as far as the big prizes are concerned, so long as we remain so reliant on our ability to outscore the opposition and until such time as our squad contains the range of players who are capable of being sent out, secure in the knowledge of being able to keep a clean sheet (now that would be a novelty!)

Big Love

It suddenly occurred to me at the weekend that I might’ve missed England v Montenegro, only to discover this game wasn’t until Tuesday night. As far as I’m concerned watching Peter Shilton and Ann Widecombe stumbling around on Strictly Come Dancing is a far more entertaining proposition, than an England XI attempting to grind out a victory against the table topping team, from a country which sounds more like a combination of two of British Leyland's lousier motors.

Naturally I’ll be tuning in, if only to see if Jack Wilshere gets a look-in. Although after turning out for the U21s at Carrow Road, I’m sure Arsène won’t be too amused if Wilshere ends up playing two games in four days. Heaven only knows exactly what more Capello expects to learn about one of the countries most promising teenagers, by selecting him alongside “couldn’t score in a brothel” Bent and an ageing workhorse (I was going to say “cart” but didn’t want to be guilty of putting it before the horse!) like Kevin Davies.

Unlike the Scousers, I suppose I should be grateful that the lack of turmoil in London N5 leaves me with so little to say during the Interlull. What astounds me is that Liverpool’s financial meltdown was predicted many moons back, when the date of their loan repayment was made public. Yet everyone at Anfield appears to have ploughed on regardless of this doomsday scenario. Never mind being too good a team to get relegated, for the Scousers sake, I certainly hope they aren’t about to find out the hard way that they aren’t too big an institution for bankruptcy!

I doubt there’ll be too much gloating at the other end of the M62, considering that the Glaziers have encumbered Man Utd with the sort of debt that many a third-world country would be proud of and which makes the Merseysiders’ parlous financial predicament look miniscule by comparison. But then aside from the sugar-daddy sorted likes of Chelsea and Man City, the effort to keep up with the Jones’ and the fear of falling off the Premiership perch has resulted in culture of living beyond ones means for so many years now, that I imagine the majority of top flight clubs are in a similar, "there but for the grace..." situation of constantly having to keep their creditors sweet.

I guess it's for this reason that the Gunners are so proud of their rare achievement of a "workable business model" and why the club spent £4mill on providing posh nosh, instead of investing it on the pitch during the close season. But then after five silverware starved seasons, where Champions League qualification has been the limit of our ambitions, I’m sure if you asked most Arsenal fans they’d be absolutely delighted to be joining all those other clubs constantly teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, in exchange for being top of the league!

In checking the latest news on the Arsenal web site for the want of some inspiration, all I discovered was a piece revealing “Arsenal in the Community have embarked on a two-year programme entitled ‘How are you feeling today’ funded by the Premier League and Sport Relief, which aims to improve social inclusion and wellbeing for people with mental health problems, in the Club’s local area”.

A timely project perhaps, for all those of us Gooners, who are likely to end up as blathering lunatics, wandering around Highbury with a weird form of Tourette’s, habitually blurting out “get a keeper”, “for gawd’s sake spend some money” or “please no more Diddy Men”!

Some might volunteer le Prof as the programme’s first punter. I appreciate that Arsène is obliged to spout the party-line in public, by singing his own team’s praises, but surely in private he must realise that far from having Chelsea “on the ropes” the Gunners fell victim to a classic “rope-a-dope” display by the Blues. For once our dodgy keepers weren’t culpable. Defeat at the Bridge was due to the unmistakeable evidence that we continue to lack the blend of players necessary to forge a successful squad.

When I envisage the teams lining up in the tunnel when we play Birmingham this weekend, as that somnolent Elvis dirge “the Wonder of You” pumps out of the PA, I hardly imagine Alex McLeish’s side being intimidated by their opponents. The 6’ 8” Zigic will see Arshavin, Nasri and Wilshere as a light snack between meals. I’m tired of teams looking forward to taking on our talented ball-players, when I want them to be bloody terrified. Enough of Ken Dodd's dainty little mates, where’s the scout with the cajones to surprise le Gaffer with a 15-stone stopper who’s capable of kicking lumps out of the likes of Drogba?

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